Saturday, May 21, 2011

Oh the places I've seen...

Japan (Nagoya, Takayama, Ise, Koranke, Kyoto)
-->from top to bottom: Persimmons in the fall at Koranke; Shichimi Togarashi (seven taste) spice in Kyoto; Hot sake and Hidagyuu (Hida beef) in Takayama; Dango in Takayama; Matcha ice cream in Takayama; microbrew in Ise; Kinako mochi with green tea in Nagoya; Shiruko (azuki soup with mochi) in Nagoya.

Japan food facts:
---Shichimi togarashi is a spice usually used for flavoring soups or for stir fries. It is made of chili pepper, sansho (Japanese pepper), orange peel, black sesame, white sesame, hemp seed, ginger, and aonori (a type of blue seaweed).

---While there is an extremely high beer tax in Japan (that's why most beers sold by Kirin, Sapporo, Asahi, and the like do not suffer the tax because they are non-malt), so micro-brew is a relatively new luxury there. But the microbrew that does exist is exceptional. Many Japanese microbrews I've had rival the amazing Colorado brews I know and love. The lovelies in the pictures above are from the Ise Kadoya brewery. Another fun beer fact: beers such as Kirin use a fermented soy bean protein instead of malt to achieve a "malty" flavor.

---Think Kobe beef is the end-all-be-all? Absolutely not, there is beef in Japan that is considered to be much finer (and is much more expensive). For example, one of the top beef types is Hida beef, a type that is raised in the Hida region of Takayama, Nagano, Japan. And god, is it good.

---Mochi is a cake made solely from pounded glutinous rice. It's a little foreign to the Western palate at first, but most people I know have grown to adore it. Especially the freshly pounded mochi that is sold in small towns with little bits of rice still in it.

---Kinako is a roasted soybean powder usually used on sweet things like mochi or ice cream. It may seem like an odd thing to put on sweet things, but it has a lovely roasted peanut flavor.

Nicaragua (Granada, Laguna de Apollo):
Desayuno tipico--fried rice and beans (gallo pinto) with fried cheese, fried plantains, and cafe con leche; Fried cheese, fried plantains, and salad.

Nicaragua food facts:
---Gallo pinto, or "speckled rooster", is the name for the rice and beans commonly eaten at breakfast. The story I heard to explain the name is that there was a man who used to brag and brag about his big "gallo pinto". He would walk around saying that it was big enough to feed the whole town! So when it was time to slaughter the bird, he decided to throw a fiesta to which the entire town was invited, where everyone could sample his prize gallo pinto. Of course, he found the bird was not enough food, so he anxiously threw together rice and beans, and everyone was indeed fed gallo pinto! Even if it wasn't chicken at all...

---As with many Central American countries, the North and South coast of Nicaragua are very different in food styles. Whereas many rich seafoods such as lobster and crabs are consumed on the North coast, the South primarily eats smaller fish and crabs. Also, in the North, more coconut milk is used, while on the South it is omitted.

---It's primary food exports are coffee, beef, shrimp and lobster, tobacco, sugar, and peanuts (thank you, World CIA Factbook). So, if you're sitting around at home enjoying any of those things, please remember the Nicaraguans who are working to give you those things. Nicaragua is the 2nd poorest country in the Western Hemisphere--the 1st being Haiti.

Puerto Rico (Guaynabo):
Tostones (plantain chips) with whole fish stuffed with curried shrimp, and salad.

Puerto Rico food facts:
---As many other Latin countries, Puerto Rico is in love with the plantain. However, it is famous for it's own uses of the starch. The first is Tostones (above), and the second is Mofongo. You make basic Mofongo by frying plantains, mashing them with oil (or butter) and garlic, and then forming it into a little volcano, and filling it with whatever delicious thing you can think of.

---The first Puerto Ricans before Spanish conquest were called the Taínos, and Puerto Rico was first called Borikén. So in Spanish when referring to Puerto Rico and it's food, it's usually called "Boricua".

---Indigenous foods eaten by the Taíno was yuca, sweet potato, corn, peanuts, and pineapple (thank you,

Hong Kong (Kowloon Tong):
Homemade potstickers; Typical breakfast of congee (rice soup), fried noodles, pork or egg bun, and English tea with milk.

Hong Kong food fact:
---Hong Kong is an amazing mix of cultures. It is not fully mainland Chinese, and it has a long history as a prominent port (thus it's name "Xiang Gong 香港", or fragrant port). It was seized by England after the Opium Wars, later occupied by Japan, engaged a great deal of Asian trade, along with other European trade such as France and Germany, among many other worldly ties. It's food reflects such a diverse history, so while it boasts many very Cantonese things such as dim sum and clear sauces with corn and crab, there are a great deal of global food. For example, the British installed tea with milk and Ovaltine, the French their breads and cookies (namely Palmiers), the Japanese their sushis and noodles, among a great deal of other things

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